The K-9s of SWCSO Part 1: Jara

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Photo by Wyo4news

Carly Eversole, [email protected]

Sweetwater County, Wyoming – The mold was broken with the addition of K-9 Deputy Jara as she entered the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s department in 2016.

History – Jara came to Sweetwater County from an organization called K-9 working dogs international, based out of Kansas at the time but has since moved to Ohio. Being shipped to the United States as a young pup from Europe, Jara began her training there before eventually being purchased by the SWCSO through the agency’s drug seizure fund. After purchase, Jara who was originally with another handler made her way to Deputy Derek Morell and the two have been a perfect match ever since. Not to say there weren’t some learning curves in the infancy of their career together. Morell jokingly suggests, “It took about 6 months for Jara to train me and I always tell people I’m on the dumb end of the leash.”

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Stardom – K-9 Deputy Jara’s career has not been monotonous in the least bit. The four-legged member of law enforcement has definitely seen some time in the spotlight. She’s even had her own YouTube show for a brief period of time. Many in the community may have gotten to know Jara through her appearance on the Dr. Phil show in early 2020. During the episode, Deputy Morell hid a piece of paper with the scent of heroin on it in the studio for Jara to find. After talking with the host about his K-9 partner, Morell was able to put Jara to work right there backstage where she successfully found the training aid, opening a drawer with her nose to get to it.

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Career – “Since the introduction of the K-9 unit to the SWCSO nearly 15 million dollars in drugs have been seized by law enforcement.” stated Deputy Jason Mower, public relations officer, in an interview with Wyo4news. Morell added to that by saying “Ten million dollars of that has been because of Jara.” But aside from removing dangerous drugs from the community, Jara has used her nose for much more.

Morell told the story of when he and Jara had been working together for only a few months, they received a call for an older gentleman that had gone missing from an assisted living location in Rock Springs. It was in the middle of winter and cold, the stakes were high for finding this gentleman who had most likely wandered off in confusion. Jara was deployed and immediately went to work tracking him. Morell was following Jara along as she tracked the missing man when she suddenly dove down an embankment into a creek bed that was covered in brush. “There was no visibility. I couldn’t see where she was and I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing at the end of the leash when after a few moments I hear ‘hey puppy hey puppy'” explained Morell. “Jara had found the man who had fallen in the ravine and was unconscious, she stayed with him licking his face until he woke up.” Taking on the arduous task of cutting away the brush, first responders were able to get to the man and save his life that day, all because of Jara. “I have no doubt we never would have found him without her.”

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A second similar story took place in July of 2019 when a 4-year-old boy wandered away from his front yard. The boy was missing for 15-20 minutes and according to his mother suffered from some developmental disabilities that made him nonverbal. Morell was heading to another call in Wamsutter when he heard the call about the missing boy over the radio. Knowing Jara was the best candidate for the job he assigned himself to this call and arrived on the scene. Jara wasted no time sniffing out the boy’s location, finding him within 5 minutes of beginning her search curled up on the floor of an unoccupied car parked along the street. Elevated summer temperatures in a vehicle almost always result in death or serious injury, especially to young children, but the only damage suffered that day was the car the boy was locked in as Jara scratched at the doors desperate to get to the small child.

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Summary – There are many more tales that would take days to hear involving Jara’s extensive career with the Sheriff’s Department. Still, one thing is absolute-Jara’s heroism is unparallel to anything else. She is trained to protect her handler no matter the cost to her own self and would do so without hesitation. Alongside Morell, Jara has taken illegal drugs off the streets, saved the lives of both young and old, cleared buildings of threats, and educated the public. One command could send her into attack mode, or engage her scent receptors which are tens of thousands of times stronger than humans and she does it all for the reward of her favorite ball and to be told she’s a good girl. This 8-year-old Belgian Malinois may have a little more grey in her face than she did at the beginning of her career, but her ears are still up, ready to work. Morell spoke fondly of Jara during the entire interview and it is not difficult to see the strength of the bond between them. Although Jara is reaching the seniority of her career and life, she will remain a part of Morell’s life no matter what, he is absolutely certain about that.

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